Complement activation in myasthenia gravis (MG) may damage muscle endplate and complement regulatory proteins such as decay-accelerating factor (DAF) or CD55 may be protective. We hypothesize that the increased prevalence of severe extraocular muscle (EOM) dysfunction among African MG subjects reported earlier may result from altered DAF expression. To test this hypothesis, we screened the DAF gene sequences relevant to the classical complement pathway and found an association between myasthenics with EOM paresis and the DAF regulatory region c.-198CG SNP (odds ratio8.6; P0.0003). This single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) results in a twofold activation of a DAF 5?-flanking region luciferase reporter transfected into three different cell lines. Direct matching of the surrounding SNP sequence within the DAF regulatory region with the known transcription factor-binding sites suggests a loss of an Sp1-binding site. This was supported by the observation that the c.-198CG SNP did not show the normal lipopolysaccharide-induced DAF transcriptional upregulation in lymphoblasts from four patients. Our findings suggest that at critical periods during autoimmune MG, this SNP may result in inadequate DAF upregulation with consequent complement-mediated EOM damage. Susceptible individuals may benefit from anti-complement therapy in addition to immunosuppression. © 2010 Macmillan Publishers Limited. All rights reserved.
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